Jeff Torda, J.P. Rafferty notch goals for Gamecocks
Saturday night’s men’s soccer match between South Carolina and Elon was only an exhibition, but it certainly didn’t feel like one.
The way Elon and South Carolina were going after each other, one would think there was a playoff title on the line. Instead, it was the final exhibition match of the season for the Gamecocks. A crowd of over 1,300 watched the Gamecocks achieve a 2-0 victory over the Phoenix.
The Gamecocks got off to a quick start. In the fourth minute, redshirt junior midfielder Stephen Anderson fed junior forward Asa Kryst into the right side of the box. Kryst pulled the ball back and set up sophomore Jeff Torda a few yards outside the box. Torda, who said he saw Elon keeper Nathan Dean off his line, fired a hard shot into the left side of the net.
Then, things started to get chippy. USC’s junior defender Mahamoudou “Mo” Kaba got a yellow card for tackling with his studs up in the 19th minute.
Sophomore midfielder Ryan Arambula had a chance in the 25th minute from the top of the box that was saved by Dean, but the ball slipped behind him and went out of bounds right near the net to set up a corner kick.
Off the corner kick, the ball went to Anderson on the right side and he delivered a cross to senior forward/defender J.P. Rafferty who headed it straight past Dean.
Four minutes later, Rafferty went down with an apparent elbow to the eye. He was bleeding, but did not need stitches, and later returned to the game.
Rafferty laughed off the incident, saying he went up to win the ball and the defender came down with a harsh elbow.
“It happens,” Rafferty said. “I just wish his elbow would have been a little bit more hurt.”
The first serious chance for Elon came in the 41st minute off a corner kick. Senior Daniel Lovitz took an open shot from the right side of the box, but Gamecock redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Robert Beebe pushed it over the crossbar.
A minute later, off an Elon free kick, sophomore midfielder James Brace had a free header in the box that Beebe saved again.
To cap off the eventful half, South Carolina junior midfielder Hunter Wyer picked up two yellow cards in the span of a few seconds after getting into an argument with the referee and was sent off. The Gamecocks did not have to play a man down, which would have been the case in a regular season game.
In the second half, Elon looked to take control but couldn’t cash in.
About 15 minutes into the second half, Beebe blocked sophomore Nathan Diehl’s shot and let up a rebound. Elon’s James Brace had a wide open rebound for a goal, but junior midfielder Braeden Troyer cleared it.
Head coach Mark Berson was pleased with his team’s first half, but wanted his players to come out stronger in the second. He said since this is just the Gamecocks’ second match, they are still getting used to the rhythm against a good opponent.
As for the intense environment for an exhibition game, Berson enjoyed it.
“It’s what we needed before we open,” Berson said. “Friday night’s going to be real chippy too. There’s going to be a whole different level.”
Torda, who appreciated the large crowd, was happy that the fans got to see that type of spirited action.
“To be fair, I love it,” Torda said. “It’s the atmosphere. It’s an exhibition, but at the end, we want to win and they want to win.”
South Carolina opens its regular season on Friday at home against East Tennessee State at 7 p.m. Berson said the match versus Elon was a good step going into the first game.
“In this game, I think we were able to do all the things we wanted to do in the opening match,” Berson said. “Now it’s a matter of doing things better, doing things quicker and more precise. We need to get that timing and get it wired in before we open on Friday.”